There was one name on everyone’s lips at the Cadillac Center, a.k.a., Wukesong Arena, in Beijing on Wednesday night: Jeremy Lin.
An array of “Lin 7” jerseys dotted the crowd as Lin made his home debut in the Chinese Basketball Association, this following a 108-81 win on Sunday in his first CBA game in Tianjin. Along with Lin’s Beijing Ducks jersey, there were plenty of Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets jerseys with Lin’s name on it, too.
“It’s almost as if fans here have taken ownership of him, even when he was playing in the NBA,” said a Chinese sports journalist I spoke to. “He was the first Asian [American] in the NBA, and I know for my younger cousins he’s been someone they look up to. You know, with Chinese parents, the focus is always on studies and school, but with Lin, he’s shown that you can do both. I know my young cousins use him as an excuse to play basketball instead on studying.”
In addition to his NBA career, Lin has a degree in economics from Harvard.
The 18,000-seat arena wasn’t quite sold out, but there was a noticeable buzz nonetheless. People filed in earlier than normal to watch the players in their pre-game shootaround, paying particular attention to the 31-year-old Lin line up shot after shot.
During the introductions, when the emcee read Lin’s name — in both English and Chinese — a roar swept through the arena.
The game itself, against the Shandong Heroes, proved to be a scrappy back-and-forth affair, one that saw the home team eventually emerge with a 105-102 win to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Lin ran the show from the outset, aggressively driving to the bucket. He was punished for his efforts, getting knocked down multiple times (including on the game’s opening possession, when he got ran over while trying to set a screen) and — for the second straight game — getting treatment for being bloodied, this time on the arm.
In the end, he put in 24 points with eight rebounds and six assists, respectable if not entirely dominant number. Justin Hamilton, the Ducks’ center, led all players with 35 points.
Lin did do this though:
Jeremy Lin's first CBA three-pointer. He's promised to donate RMB 3,000 (US$428) to charity for every one he hits this season. It is reported that the Beijing Ducks will match it. pic.twitter.com/LwkVCKIhev
— Jonathan White (@jmawhite) November 6, 2019
Leaving the court at the end, right arm bandaged, Lin received one final loud ovation from the crowd. Beijing fans hope to have more to cheer for on Friday when the Ducks host the Shanghai Sharks.